C-Note: 8 Months in a NOLA Dive Bar

My new book, “C-Note: 8 months in a New Orleans dive bar” is now available at the Amazon Kindle store. Here is the text of the cover introduction:

New Orleans is a colorful city. This book is about an off-color skid row bar where I worked as a piano playing bartender for 8 months while I lived in a garret upstairs. It’s a day by day recounting of dealing with an endless parade of drunks, ex-cons, drug addicts, hookers and other unsavory characters … all while I played a gorgeous grand piano and serve the denizens copious booze. From January 2001, through Mardi Gras and on to the beginning of August I spent nearly every waking moment in the bar. I rarely was gone for more than a few hours. I had the opportunity to not just observe the denizens, but become their friends.

I came to know some 200 denizens and the owner and his girlfriend — all of whom were the epitome of alcoholic, violent, crazed, criminal lunatics of the sort that would make rational decent people cringe. I managed to eek out 8 months there. At first I thought it was a piano bar … I discovered quickly it was a bar with a piano. A bar that the cops passed by slowly every time, to see if the denizens were contained and out of harm’s way. The harm to themselves, and to any innocent passerby was extraordinary.

From nearly the first days there, as I found what the customers were like, I decided to write a book about it. I wrote it as it happened. It took place in 2001, but I’m finally publishing it now, 14 years later. I didn’t change a thing from what I wrote all those years ago. I’m not certain if any of the people in it are alive anymore … most of them most likely drank and drugged themselves to death.

The two most astonishing tips I got at the bar were a portrait painted by one of my fellow bartenders, herself a drunken, crack smoking denizen — and a 1973 Lincoln Continental. The bar, the car and the painting are the cover images — the white space is perhaps just emblematic of the emptiness in the lives of the denizens. The other exciting thing that happened is that I produced my first CD of my piano music and launched my piano playing career.

For those who wonder what takes place in a skid row bar among the seediest of citizens of any city, this is perhaps a ready explanation — they live and they are happy and they’re proud. They were especially proud to be drunks. It’s descriptive, but brings up the important issue of how does society deal with such people? New Orleans decided to just let the bar be. I’m now certain that society will never solve the problems of this sort of people, however much it wishes to.

There is the question of why I stayed so long — since I am not a heavy drinker, not a drug addict, and am in fact, a college educated rational man — and the only answer I can give is that piano … I played it for many hours … and was essentially paid to learn and practice it. And it was right for my life at that time.


here is the link:


You know, you wind up working in a crazy bar — things happen. — here’s some pictures too.

new cover

the cover of the book


be behind the bar


me smoking a cigar


Deanna Chivin, the lady who painted the portrait

c note

In a happy moment


Michel F. Melle — owenr and bon vivant


Me on my last day with the sign I put up announcing my departure


Me playing the piano


last day playing


in the middle of a piece


the 1973 Lincoln Continental I got as a tip


Me and the Lincoln at the bar


Travis amd me


Travis was a 22 year old drunk in waiting, I hope I saved him


Travis drunk at the bar


Travis and the Lincoln — which he washed and waxed as part of his chores to put the boy on a productive path.

All this an more happened at the C-Note Lounge – America’s finest skid row  bar


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